Joie de Vivre jewelry
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There are four types of leather: full grain leather, top grade leather, genuine leather and bonded leather. Full grade leather is the top layer of the animal hide and the fibers are aligned vertically rather than horizontally, making the leather tougher to separate. Also, the top layer will maintain surface blemishes like brands or run-ins with barbed wire fences. This premium leather is used for the highest quality bags and wears beautifully with age. Top grade leather is split from the top layer of hide to remove blemishes then sanded and refinished. It does not age as nicely with use since the outer layer of tough vertical fibers has been removed, but it is strong and durable. Genuine leather is the third layer left after the full and top grade leathers have been removed. The fibers are aligned horizontally and the surface is spray painted to resemble higher quality leather. While popular, suede is a kind of genuine leather which explains why it is not as robust as other kinds of leather. Bonded leather is the lowest quality leather made from leather dust and shavings.

The tanning process is one of the most important steps in creating high quality leather. After the animal hair and fats have been removed from the skin, this "wet blue" weather is submerged in large drums filled with new oils, perservatives and coloring. Depending on the thickness of the leather, it can take hours for the oils to penetrate throughout the skin for uniform coloring and preservation. Examining the raw edge of a leather hide tells the truth about the quality of the leather and tanning process: uniform coloring and texture indicates the leather was tanned thoroughly (oils and colors penetrated throughout) while coloring on the top surface with pale-bluish interior indicates the leather was only partially tanned and is likely subject to drying or cracking with age. For more lessons in leather, see the Saddleback Leather Company website.

What does this mean for leather used in jewelry? Many of the popular metallic leather cords are not high grade leather; they are genuine leather or bonded leather that has been spray painted. This isn't necessarily bad; it simply means the leather will not withstand heavy use - just like most jewelry components! Thin sterling silver or 14kt gold chain is not robust against repeated hard pulls or twists either. This kind of leather cord should be treated as a somewhat disposable item that will become scratched with use. This is true for suede leather "lace" as well. Leather scraps tend to cover the spectrum of leather types available: some are premium quality, some are lower quality. I bond all leather components with strong industrial adhesive so durability is determined by the leather surface, and components will weather differently.

Mid-life Musings
Darling Clementine
Wise Owl
High Five
Pseudotsuga Menziesii
Rock Types II
Have a Heart
Park Date
Earth Chick
Earth Angel
Earth Day Pt.2
Strawberry Field
Equivalent #6

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